Why does nobody think Usain Bolt cheated?

Covariation theory is a psychological idea that helps explain why we instantly suspect some record-breaking athletes of doping, while giving others the benefit of the doubt. (Via Melanie Tannenbaum)


    1. Exactly. Around here everyone thinks that all of the medalists are doping with some fancy new chemical. That was the case with Marion Jones and I won’t be surprised if new information comes out from Jamaica’s current crop.

      And the US’s crop too. Who ever heard of someone breaking a leg while running? Oh, sure a grandmother might do it when she’s walking but an able bodied man?
      The newness of the drug testing lab just makes it more suspicious. 

      1. As for the athlete with the broken leg, they did explain, on international TV, that he had injured his leg on a means of mass-transit (I think they said double-decker bus, but I can’t remember for certain) previous to the race.

        As an athlete looking to push the limits of the human body he’s probably used to dealing with pain in his legs.  For me, it’s plausible that he did actually injure himself severely enough to cause the later problem, but both didn’t want to drop out of the Olympics and didn’t know the severity of his injury until the event, thus if I were to apply Mythbusters judgement, I find it Plausible.

  1. I’m getting popcorn.   

    Also, I can’t lose in this debate, as I’m in the don’t-care-camp.

  2. The study seems to be more relevant to recommendation engines, like Yelp. When evaluating a business, I look for reviewers who supply a range of both good and bad reviews. 

    The Olympics seems like a retrofit. Maybe if I had a TV and spent more time watching other people do stuff I’d be more interested. 

  3. In fairness there are other ways than gut feeling to measure such stuff.

    The chinese swimmer, looking at what she did time/power/timomg wise is statisitcally normal. That last length was nothing out of the ordinary.

    However in the tour de france they’ve been able to show drug cheats by measuring times and power outputs.

    1. Also Ye Shiwen beat her own record by quite a margin, which stands out. Bolt is the current world record holder, so it’s not particularly standout that he won his races.

      I figured that’s what caused the doubt. I didn’t have any doubt personally, mostly because I imagine you’d have to be extremely brave or stupid to cheat with drugs at the Olympics.

      1. It’s a combination of cynicism and sour grapes.

        She beat her personal best by 5s and  swam the final 50m faster than the guy that won the equivalent male race. That’s at least unusual – although a lot of experts don’t seem too surprised (difference between 14 and 16?).

        Meh. As with all the other winners, they’ll keep her samples on record and retest. Some of the winners over the last few weeks will subsequently be stripped of their medals, some won’t. Only time will tell. I see one’s gone already today.

          1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/olympics/19242736

            Funny thing is the British discus thrower that called her out for cheating during the games and was made to apologise.


            He’s not so apologetic today.


            I think they must all genuinely think they’ll get away with it (probably because they have been doing for years).

            When Ben Johnson admitted doping, he still denied he was taking anabolic steroids. He failed his test because the powers that be wanted him to.

        1. She beat her personal best by 5s and swam the final 50m faster than the guy that won the equivalent male race.

          The part about beating the gentleman is not exactly true. She beat him for one portion of the race. Different pacing styles. Totally common. Some people sprint at the beginning, some at the end, some in the middle.

          1. I didn’t accuse her of anything, I’m reserving judgement in this case; however, her speed at the end was definitely one of the major things flagged by the guy making the loudest accusations (who seems to be some kind of expert).

            Personally, I don’t much care. I find swimming incredibly dull and if I  ran the Olympics I’d cut it way back.

          2. I was just pointing out that one of the extraordinary things that’s she’s accused of is actually quite ordinary and explicable.

  4. I guess I’m “nobody” because i kind of think all the athletes that are so overwhelmingly dominant might be using performance enhancing drugs or doping.

  5. His name is Usain Bolt, that’s why. If he was mechanical I would be even less surprised. Heck, why hasn’t DC contacted him about be a Speedster.

  6. Why is it that every time someone does well on the track, some people automatically assume they are ‘cheating’ in some way?

    In the case of Bolt, there is a pretty clear physiological reason why he can be faster; just look at him standing next to most of the other sprinters.

    Until someone can provide some basis for suspecting someone is cheating in some testable way besides “s/he is faster than everyone else” then the default assumption should be they got lucky (genetically, environmentally, etc.), not ‘gee, how long before we find out how s/he is cheating?’

    Then there is the completely different argument about wether using bio-chemical means to improve ones performance *should* be considered ‘cheating’…

    1.  Because way too many of them have cheated in the past and continue to do so. Like the cyclists, athletes have pissed in their own pool so much no-one believes there’s much water left in there at all.

      1. Sorry, it took me so long to reply, but I spent some time this afternoon trying to dig up some numbers on how many medals have been awarded in track and field vs how many have been withdrawn since testing started in 1968. I’m sure that the figures are out there, but I couldn’t find them in the time I had.

        Just out of curiosity, can you put a percentage on how many is ‘way too many’ runners caught doping to justify assuming all of them do? How does that compare with the number of lawyers who are sleazy scumbags justifying that all of them are?  Or the number of quack doctors before we start assuming that they all are? How about the number of politicians caught lying before… oh right, never mind about the politicians.

        I suspect that your assumptions about the water quality is based on a very small, but high profile, fraction of actual award winning athletes found to be cheating.  But until one of us finds some actual numbers we are just holding opposing opinions.

    2. His physiology has naught to do with it. Most sprinters have a stockier build and more explosive power. He doesn’t seem to even have high leg turnover

  7. Floyd:
    Doyle, I KNOW I gave him four THREES. He had to make a SWITCH. We can’t let him get away with that.

    Doyle Lonnegan:
    What was I supposed to do – call him for cheating better than me, in front of the others? 

  8. Usain Bolt did cheat, but not by using steroids. His real trick is to put the rest of the sprinters at a disadvantage by deafening them with the sonic boom he leaves in his wake.

  9. You’d like to think that Bolt is fast enough he doesn’t need to cheat (which is pretty much what the article gets at).

    But after Lance Armstrong who can you trust?

  10.  I think the IOC should do an Olympics strictly for cheats. Whether you’re on steroids, growth hormones or just don’t want to win fairly, doesn’t matter. Imagine the roid rage freakouts, the property damage.

  11. Usain Bolt is expected to be the front runner…he’s been winning events for years…it’s the ones they talked about like “2 years ago so and so was no one, running for their school and suddenly they came out of no where to win the Olympic trials” yeah, that statement combined with a faceful of acne makes me wonder if anyone CARES that there’s doping going on.

  12. I just assume that everyone and everything involved in the Olympics is corrupt, and leave it at that.

  13. I did like the somewhat short Chinese reaction to accusations of doping because of their high performing athletes, mainly because they were high performing.


    1.  Again, when an athlete has shown a fairly consistent performance curve over the years, either they’re systematically cheating (which probably increases their chances of being caught as there are more events to test during) or they’re really just that good.

      When an athlete breaks their own curve, especially in only one race, then it’s much more suspicious.  That doesn’t mean that they cheated, but it does mean that there should be an obligation to check, in my humble opinion.

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